Here we go again
There are roughly six weeks left in fiscal 2014, and not a single appropriations bill has been signed into law. Congress left promptly for its August recess, and both the House and Senate are scheduled to be gone until Sept. 8, leaving perhaps a dozen legislative business days in which to craft a funding bill for Oct. 1 and beyond.
House Speaker John Boehner said the House will pass a short-term continuing resolution in September, most likely funding the government through the 2014 elections. In the past few years, however, such stopgap measures have almost always come at the 11th hour or beyond, which means September could see yet another round of "just in case" planning for agency shutdowns.
It wasn't supposed to be this way, of course. Last December, when Congress finally got around to funding the current fiscal year, legislators also set spending levels for fiscal 2015. The idea was to get a jump on next year's appropriations and give agency leaders some long-denied budget clarity so that real plans could be made.
Instead, we're back into a familiar routine. In the final days of September (or perhaps the early hours of October), a spending bill will be signed into law -- unless, of course, some other political showdown jams up the process and prompts a shutdown. The bill that passes might or might not adjust the previously established funding levels, but it will almost certainly last only into December so that this Congress can tackle tough spending questions after Election Day.
And that lame-duck session might well fund the government for only a few months more and kick the fiscal can to newly elected legislators in the 114th Congress.
That's no way to run a government, but it is the new normal. So good luck with that IT and budget planning!
Troy K. Schneider is editor-in-chief of FCW and GCN. Connect with him on Twitter: @troyschneider.